THE MUSICAL COA-COA BASKET

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“One good thing about music, when it hits, you feel no pain.”

Bob Marley (1945 – 1981)

Music has always played an important role in all our lives, especially Reggae, the music genre first developed in Jamaica, strongly influenced by traditional African, American jazz and old-time rhythm and blues. Reggae owes its direct origins to the progressive development of Ska and Rocksteady in 1960s Jamaica. Each month, THE MUSICAL COA-COA BASKET will salute the legendary artists and recording studios from out of Jamaica that have placed reggae on the musical global map.

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PHYLLIS DILLON

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SUNRISE: 1 January 1948   SUNSET: 15 April 2004

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Phyllis Dillon was born in 1948 in Linstead, St. Catherine, Jamaica. Influenced by American singers Connie Francis, Patti Page and Dionne Warwick, she began singing in talent contests. It was during a performance at the Glass Bucket Club in Kingston, Jamaica with the group The Vulcans, where Duke Reid’s session guitarist Lynn Taitt discovered her.

She was 19 when she recorded her first record for Duke Reid. In 1967, Reid released Don’t Stay Away. While most of her subsequent recordings would be covers of popular and obscure American songs including Bettye Swann’s Make Me Yours, Perry Como’s Tulips and HeatherMidnight Confessions, and Stephen Stills’s Love the One You’re With; Don’t Stay Away was an original composition featuring Tommy McCook and the Supersonics as the backing band.

Another original song, It’s Rocking Time would later be turned into the Alton Ellis’ hit Rocksteady. While these early recordings demonstrate Dillon’s mastery of the rocksteady sound, a much slower, soulful, response to the sultry weather that made ska’s upbeat rhythm and tempo undesirable even impracticable, it was no indication of her greatest performance, 1967’s Perfidia. Popularized by the American surf rock band The Ventures. Perfidia is a 1940 song written by Alberto Domínguez and made popular by the Cuban bandleader, Xavier Cugat. At the end of 1967, Dillon moved to New York. The following five years, she spent living a double life. She had a family and career in the United States, flying frequently back to Kingston, Jamaica to continue recording for Reid. After a number of singles and an album entitled Living in Love, Dillon ended her recording career in 1971. She was 23 years of age.

In 1991, Michael Bonnet, the entertainment director for the Oceanea Hotel in Kingston approached Dillon inviting her to sing. Her refusal at first was later rescinded and sparked a revitalized interest in performing and recording. In the years following, Dillion would tour the UK, Germany and Japan. In 1998 Phyllis Dillon returned to the recording studio with Lynn Taitt, marked by reinterest in ska music in the United States. She remained active until illness took hold.

Phyllis Dillon passed away on 15 April 2004 in New York, after a two year battle with cancer, at the age of 56. Tune into more of the classics of Phyllis Dillon.

DISCOGRAPHY: One Life to Live; Woman of the Ghetto; Perfidia; Picture on the Wall; Don’t Stay Away; Love Was All I Had; Don’t Touch Me Tomato; Long Time No Nice Time; Get On the Right Track (Original Version)Right Track; The Love That A Woman; We Belong Together.

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JENNIFER LARA

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SUNRISE: 23 March 1953  SUNSET: 11 June 2005

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Veteran female singer and Studio One recording artiste Jennifer Lara pasted away aged just 52 years of age in the Kingston Public Hospital (KPH) Jamaica on Saturday June 11 2005, from a brain haemorrhage and high blood pressure. She is survived by her two children Ika and Sheka.

She was the cousin of Derrick Lara of The Tamlins and joined Studio One in 1969 after leaving school when Studio One keyboard player Richard Ace brought her to Studio One owner Coxsone Dodd and she never left. Her single solo album for the label was Studio One Presents Jennifer Lara; however she was featured on a number of the label’s compilations including, Christmas Greetings, Feel Like Jumping and Studio One Classics.

Her best known single was an original titled, Consider Me, which was recorded on the rhythm track of Delroy Wilson’s huge hit, I Don’t Know Why. She also did back up vocals for a number of top artistes at the label including The Ethiopians, Dennis Brown, Freddie McGregor and The Jays. Her last song Ordinary People was recorded two weeks before she died at Studio One, a duet with guitarist Dalton Browne, who said that Jennifer Lara’s death came as a surprise to him, she didn’t show any sign of illness when they were recording.

Jennifer Lara has been described as an “under-exposed” singer by her peers, who had much talent, but never got the chance to fully expose it. There have been successful female singers in the Jamaican music scene; for the most part they are used as backup singers. Jennifer Lara did exactly that for her entire career. But when an occasional single like the 1981 classic I Am In Love was released, one had to wonder why more wasn’t done with her. Maybe she didn’t want that. She was a mom and raised two children. Maybe she was happy making a living as a studio singer. She was at Studio One for 35 years so obviously Coxsone Dodd and the other musicians loved her work and I’m sure you will too. So kick back and tune into the late great Jennifer Lara classics.

DISCOGRAPHY: Consider Me; A Change is Gonna Come; Suki Yaki; I’m in Love; Music by the Score; What Is It; My Man; Jah Will Lead Us Home; Too Long Will Be Too Late; Rocking Tonight; Do His Work; Do It To Me One More Time; Tell Me Where (original)Tell Me Where; Impossible; Love and Harmony; I’ll Give You Love; Mr DJ; Hand To Mouth; Hurt So Good; Missing My Baby; Ain’t No Love; I Can’t Take It Anymore; To Long Will Be Too Late; A Woman; Close To You; Natural Misty.

“‘TIL THE NEXT ISSUE – EVERYTING – BLESS

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